Is the Range Rover Velar a techie’s car?

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This week Jaguar Land Rover invited us to test drive the latest Range Rover Velar.

Not being a motoring website (aside from the odd story about autonomous or electric vehicles), our focus is tech, but the firm said we might be interested in the technology this new vehicle sported.

So we hopped on a plane to Cape Town and got to experience life as a motoring journalist.

As a disclaimer I am not a motoring journalist and never have been, and thus my knowledge of cars is limited to re-runs of Top Gear. As such I will touch on the automotive features of the Velar, but my primary focus is the technology within it.

First, a bit about the vehicle.

The Velar has a variety of engines which you can check out below.

Diesel Engines kW Torque (NM) 0 – 100km/h (claimed) Top Speed Fuel Economy (l/100km)
D180 132 430 8.9 201 5.4
D240 177 500 7.3 217 5.8
D300 221 700 6.5 241 6.4
Petrol Engines
P250 184 365 6.7 217 6.7
P300 221 400 6 234 7.8
P380 280 450 5.7 250 9.4

Choosing an engine is the easy part, though. Range Rover told us at the launch that the Velar is its most customisable vehicle yet.

So what about the tech?

Range Rover’s big play with the Velar is an absence of buttons. Okay, that might be simplifying it a bit too much – there is a lot more to the car than just that – but it’s the feature the RR people made the most noise about.

Instead of the usual array of knobs, the Velar features two massive touchscreens in the centre console. One display allows you to control the entertainment system and navigation, and the other controls the vehicle settings – including things like climate control and suspension.

It’s a cool idea in theory, but after driving the car around the Western Cape for a day, I came away thinking it’s actually a terrible solution. Sorry, Range Rover.

First, the touchscreen attracts fingerprints from miles away; second, you have to look down at the display to change a setting while driving. To me, this is about as bad as using a smartphone while driving.

Perhaps I’m stuck in my ways (and admittedly I’m also maybe a bit old-fashioned), but I find it easier to feel for a knob than look down at a display for an extended period of time to change how my aircon is being delivered.

Also, accessing the desired functions in winter could be a problem if you’re wearing gloves while driving; in that situation, knobs would be a lot better.

The displays inside the new Range Rover Velar. The top is navigation and entertainment, the bottom is vehicle settings.

The Velar is also not what I would call “user-friendly”. Given that every interaction with the vehicle is now digital, options are hidden within menus. For the entertainment system this is somewhat okay because the passenger can control these, but I feel like car options such as cruise control and ride adjustment – things the driver needs easy access to – could be kept a lot closer to hand.

Features I really liked, meanwhile, were things like the suspension lowering automatically when I got in and out of the vehicle. The door handles also emerge from the vehicle when you unlock it, which is rather swish. I legit felt like the millionaire I’d have to be to afford one of these when I climbed in.

The digital dashboard can be fully customised.

Overall the Velar is cool and crammed with tech, but honestly, it costs a small fortune. And I’m being generous here; “small” is a highly relative term.

Pricing for the Velar starts at R947 700 – yes, really – and you don’t even get leather seats for that cash. Instead, entry-level buyers get a fabric called Luxtec, which is made with recycled plastic bottles.

Okay, so it’s an environmentally-friendly solution, and it’s mixed with suede material, but come on: for the price of a house you can give me leather seats.

The Velar also features off-roading capabilities as all models come with four-wheel drive, but I highly doubt bundu-bashers will opt for it over the Range Rover Vogue (which I’m told by car people is a great off-roader). I think the Velar is a little too swish for that – it’d be like taking your Prada shoes into the Amazon rainforest.

Off-road? The Velar is very capable when you turn off the tarmac.

The car drives well, but I do feel the gearbox lags a bit. I had a particularly harrowing experience when trying to overtake a truck: I put my foot to the floor and waited as the automatic gearbox tried to figure out what it was meant to do. Not what I needed in that exact moment. The situation worked out okay in the end, but I was not impressed.

Overall, I’d say the Velar is a cool car that fits in between the Range Rover Sport and the Range Rover Evoque in terms of power, performance, and features.

And while the tech RR has included is cool and all, I struggle to call it a good idea. If we shouldn’t be using smartphones while we drive – and we shouldn’t – then perhaps a car that relies heavily on touch controls is not the best idea.

The Range Rover Velar hits dealerships in South Africa this Friday (October 20), so if you are in the market for a small house on wheels, pop into your local dealership this weekend or visit the Range Rover website.

 

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.

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